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Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Social Impact of Quantitative Pricing of Water

Britain happens to be an island, located at the northern part of the western hemisphere. Although its location suggests that the place should be cold, but the temperature here moves around zero degrees Celsius in the southern part which includes England and Wales. While in the north it does snow during winter time, imply that temperature does go subzero. In the summers, the temperatures get mild but still it has got loads of cloudy days. As for the weather, the saying goes “It is always raining in England.” The winter months get most of the rainfall, where it literally rains every day. As for the summers, they are relatively dry but still there is sufficient rainfall.

A thing that has recently been introduced by the water companies is the new pricing mechanism. According to this new (at least to this part of the world) mechanism, the water supply to the households and other consumers would be charged according to the amount used rather than the previously working system of fixed monthly charge levied on the populace. All this would either be being done under the pretext of “saving water” or increased costs.
Let us first examine the “saving water” part. Does Britain need to save water? Does Britain face any water shortage in near or far future for that matter? What would Britain do of the water saved? Well, my analysis says that Britain does not need to save water. Here I dare not suggest that everyone should start wasting the water, but at the same time Britain does not face any shortage of water in near or far future to make any extensive measure to save water. As for the water saved, it would end in the sea anyway, because as we all know Britain is an island.
So is it because of increased costs that this new scheme is being introduced? Well if it was only about cost they could easily be handled by increasing the fixed amount already being charged. Assuming there are 2 million households (which is far less than the original figure), an increase in the fixed amount by 1 pound raise the revenue by 2 million pounds. Therefore, the idea of tackling increased cost does not seem to fit it in either.
The only thing today’s ultra-capitalist system cares about is called “profit”. I would not say that I am a proponent of communism, but I do also believe that making profit out of the essential need of the people is highly immoral. It is not only about spending more money on a basic need like water or making more profit out of it, rather it would have serious social implications as well 30 years down the lane.
Let us just examine how it would affect the lives of people and because it is being introduced on newer connections only, its affect would become evident slowly but surely. We have always taken water for granted, and why not it is abundant. 70% of the Earth’s surface is water, excluding the rivers and streams. Water is used for many purposes in many different ways. Apart from the primary use of drinking it is used for bathing, washing and cooking.
Today if someone asks for a glass of water people readily give it to him because it does not incur any cost on them and it is morally inappropriate to say no to a thirsty man’s request for water. Taking the same situation in future, when someone comes asking for a glass of water. This time people would think before giving this to the person. They would think that can they afford to give water to someone? In the end they might simply refuse, even if they find it morally inappropriate but they cannot afford to give water even to a guest. Can you think of it? Someone comes to you asking for simple glass water and you refuse it? I think this is bizarre, but this where the society would go if such a measure is adopted. Therefore, what it does apart from “saving water” is that it de-grades the moral values of people.
Take another scenario, a poor man returns home running and has a dry throat tends to drink water but then in occurs to him, can he afford that glass of water? Or probably he would be able to survive without that. It would remove self-respect from that person. What would be the life of a person who would need to think about his pocket before he drinks a glass of water? Can the poor man not even drink water without thinking about is pocket? The rich people would still waste water and use it the way they want. It is the poor man who would be hit by this measure, who would be deprived even of the luxury of drinking water. Because of this condition he might want to earn more and more money. Such a person would put his heart and soul in the single purpose of earning money. At first sight there would not seem anything wrong in it, if a person wants to earn more money. But it would make him more and more materialistic in nature, then a more materialistic society at large. When a society becomes more and more materialistic it loses moral values and all that it cares about is money. Then you can never ignore the crime rate, which is intrinsically bound to go up under such circumstances.
Things get more and more bizarre when it gets involved in things such as euthanasia. There is a man dying man taking his last breath, he asks for water. Would you give him water in those circumstances? Of course, this is human nature. Now picture same situation some 30 years later, would the dying man be given water? Would the person not think about his purse before giving water? He might as well think that the person is going to die anyway, why “waste” money on him. In the end some people might end up not giving water to the dying man. With the passage of time we would not know and it would be happening at large in the whole of the society. What did it do? It took away the compassion from the society. It made the society more and more materialistic. The only possible next step would be taxing oxygen in the same way.
In conclusion this newly introduced scheme apart from “saving water” would have many adverse effects on the society, including degradation of moral values, making the society more materialistic, increased crime rate and taking away compassion from society thus making it less and less human to name a few.
What this scheme is achieving is more profits for the water company’s owners and share holders at the stake of the whole society. People would argue what is wrong with the desire to earn more profits and making more money. I would reiterate that making excess money out of the essential needs of people is highly immoral. This further reminds me of a phenomenon by the name of hoarding that sometimes occurs in some third world countries. When certain crops are harvested some wealthy business men, in order to make “profit”, buy all the harvest from the farmers before the crop reaches the market. What it does is that it causes shortage of that crop in the market making the prices to go high. Then these businessmen sell the hoarded crop slowly in the market at a higher price, making “profit”. Is this way of earning morally legitimate? I mean if profit is the only thing that should govern every aspect of life, then I find nothing wrong in this hoarding. But profit is not what governs every aspect of life; profit should not be governing every aspect of life.
The further question that arises from here is that if profit is taken away, what would be the motivation behind people to do business? I totally agree that private entities and business are always profit driven would always do enter any business only for profit. Therefore, a resource as strategic as water itself should not be in the hands of private entities at all. They should be in the hands of the government and thus a collective responsibility of the whole of the society. They should in the government control not because I am against free-market economy. Rather they should be in government control because they are too strategic to be at the hands of private companies. The governments are there for the welfare of their citizen and therefore would not be inclined in making profits out of the needs of people. I believe putting water in private hands is tantamount to privatizing the nation army or the police. Therefore, by the above stated argument I believe that Quantitative pricing of water does more harm to the society in the long term and it should be abandoned. If the profit motive of the private enterprises is at stake then these water companies should be nationalised. The citizens of state at least have the right to safe drinking water available to them for free or at minimum fixed price, provided to them by the state.


Anonymous said...

You raise a very interesting angle on this which I never really considered before.
Although I have to disagree on your concept that the water charges being changed to dynamic pricing from static is about pro-proft.
I think a dynamic pricing model is much fairer than a static pricing model in the sense that it's unfair for someone who doesn't throw water left right and center must pay the same as someone who decides to hose their car everyday.
But at the same time, your prediction of social complexities arising from this about considering your financial implications of water usage before your very survival is valid and scarilly true, but only if the UK's economy continues to slowly grind downwards into a recession like it is, otherwise the scenario would be in a very few isolated cases, or not at all.
And "saving water" is true in the sense it's happening, but it's purely for financial reasons as the general cost to water companies for producing clean, drinkable water for the entire nation is increasing (Labour, raw materials, transportation, etc) as the economy deteriorates, as the idea of the UK having a water shortage is impossible as even if the UK-based water companies begin to fail due to economic-related expenses, something like 40% of the UK's water is actually controlled and refined in Germany of all places (Good ol' global monopolisation).

..Uh, I usually don't have much to say in terms of social and political views, but your entry was actually genuinely interesting, well-informed and well structured that you actually triggered me to write a no-doubt sloppy and poor response >__>

Good blog, I'll keep it bookmarked!

Muhammad Shemyal Nisar said...

well the water import you are talking about is not in the real sense of water being imported. Rather what it means is that the fruits and vegitables that come to UK and the water they use, germany have 40% share in that water.